Cycling and Warmshowers: Really, What Is That?

Mar 30, 2017
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A few years ago, as I became more interested in cycling and touring, I started reading bicycle touring journals on crazyguyonabike. In some of the journals, the touring cyclists mentioned staying with Warmshowers hosts during their tour. The more I read, the more I became interested.

What is Warmshowers?

“The Warmshowers Community is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink. All members agree to host others either now or in the future, but for some members hosting may be in years or even decades in their future.”

In a nutshell, that is Warmshowers. So I signed up on the Warmshowers website in 2012 and created a profile to see what would happen. Since I live only four miles from the U.S./Mexico border in far South Texas, I did not expect too much of a response. Some people that live on the main bike travel routes end up with weekly requests from touring cyclists.

Simply put, Warmshowers is similar to couch surfing in concept, but with cycle touring in mind.

So why in the world would I open up my property and home to total strangers and potential freeloaders? From my experience, nothing could be farther from the truth. The cyclists are awesome, interesting, and just great people!

And here are some of my fondest memories of cyclists I have hosted so far, although I do not have a story of all the cyclists.

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My first request to host came that first month in November 2012. It was from a young man from Canada who had just finished his degree and wanted to tour into Mexico before he entered the job market. Stephen was a bit nervous about touring into Mexico, as most cyclists are once they reach my place. We shared some great stories about cycling, education, and life in general. Stephen stayed a couple of days and ventured on into Mexico, completing his tour as planned. I reached out to him several months later to see if everything went as planned and he said it turned out great and he was back home in Canada.

Sungwon from South Korea — still touring in year 7.
Sungwon from South Korea — still touring in year 7.
Richard Cavin

My next guest turned out to be a young man from South Korea who was on his third year of a planned worldwide tour. I received an email from Sungwon at 9:00 PM indicating he needed a place to stay. He was at a local McDonald’s a few miles from my home. I emailed him back and said he could stay, and I would pick him up since I lived in a very remote area and it would be difficult for him to find my place after dark.

What a nice young man and very interesting story. Sungwon had already traveled through South Korea, India, Thailand, China (twice), Australia, Canada, and the United States. He always has a smile on his face. I keep track of Sungown via Facebook and his blogs. He has since finished his tour of all of the Americas, North, Central and South, and all of Europe and Europe again … still touring into his seventh year! 

About a year later another young man from South Korea requested to stay with me. Jisan had been following Sungwon’s tour and knew that he was a guest at my place. Jisan was able to stay with me for several days and really enjoyed the local culture of where I live and work. I also keep track of Jisan, and he is still touring, currently in Thailand. 

Probably my most interesting hosting opportunity was a group of 22 cyclists on an annual cycling pilgrimage from Austin, Texas to Monterrey, Mexico. This group, known as Bikes Across Borders, assembles bikes from spare parts and rides them from Austin to Monterrey. Once in Mexico, they donate the bikes to local kids and find a way home or continue on another journey. Wow!

I hosted this group and was able to ride with them the next day on their trip to Brownsville, Texas — what an interesting group of people, young and old. Some had never toured before while others were veterans. Some of the riders were from Texas and other parts of the USA, but there were also riders from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England, and Spain. They purchased food at a local grocery store and proceeded to cook a large meal in my kitchen, and it was great. Most of the cyclists camped in my large yard, but some slept indoors. 

Bikes Across Borders visit our Warmshowers host
Bikes Across Borders group and some local cyclists, including me, in Brownsville, Texas’s Linear Park
Richard Cavin

I even had a cyclist, Raphael from Switzerland, ride to the Cycle Messenger World Championships in Mexico City on a single speed bike … he got first place in the world!

Only two cyclists have come to stay with me after entering the USA from Mexico. Matteo was from Italy and Louis a retired engineer from the Netherlands (above in yellow). Since Louis and I are both engineers and about the same age, we got along great and he was a guest for a full week. Louis started at Patagonia and ended in Canada. It was his fifth long tour in different parts of the world.

One of my most recent hosting opportunities was a retired couple from Canada who had already been touring for nine months and were on their way to the tip of South America ... Patagonia. It’s interesting how many of the cyclist’s ultimate goal is Patagonia, but now that I have seen pictures … wow! I would add a visit there to my bucket list. After staying with me almost a week, they crossed into Mexico and were on their way further south. We got along great, shared many stories, and also had the chance to ride bikes together. 

Warmshowers guests from Germany
I hosted Chrissi and Erik (Germany) in Nov 2016. 
Richard Cavin

I have so many other stories to tell about hosting cyclists: touring cyclists from the U.S., Canada, South Korea, Turkey, Poland, Germany, France, New Zealand, England, Australia, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Mexico, and the Netherlands have stayed with me. So how else would I have been able to meet so many interesting people from other parts of the world without being a Warmshowers host?

Only once did I feel uncomfortable with a guest and I asked him to move on and only stay one night. The world is full of interesting, generally wonderful people and hosting has been my way to meet some of those people.

More info about Warmshowers can be found on their website. Sign up! You might be surprised at the people you’ll meet, even if you just provide them a place to camp overnight.

Come visit me if you’re riding in South Texas. I’d love to be your host. We can share stories, ride some bikes, and even camp out if you’d like.

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Comments

Cynthia May 16, 2019, 9:56 AM

I've had nothing but great experiences with Warmshowers -- and I've only done the hosting side of it (so far). I think a lot of people could really benefit as hosts. For example, my dad has a big empty house in Denver now that my mom has moved to assisted living, and it gets a little lonely. I keep encouraging him to sign up as a host and bring the world to his doorstep!

I posted about my own hosting experiences here:

http://littlemissbiketour.com/2019/04/17/3-warm-exchanges-from-warmshowers/

Reply
Fred Strong March 17, 2019, 6:29 PM

Hi Richard

Great story I have been hosting and touring for about 8 years I have also had the pleasure of hosting several people from South Korea Great memory's that's what its all about. I have cross country twice did the southern tour in 2010 and the Transamerican trail in 2012 I am currently on tour in Florida love to meet people traveling by bicycle.

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julianne sawinski March 7, 2019, 11:07 AM

Lovely folks from califonia and the fellow originally from Australia. Hope they have a fun ride to Orlando fla. Here in Milton fla it has been unusually cold a few nights but that will soon pass. Orlando will be warmer.

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julianne sawinski March 7, 2019, 11:06 AM

This is a wonderful group.

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Betty deHoop December 5, 2017, 8:18 AM

Yes!! My husband Thom and I LOVE hosting cyclists from warm showers and agree that the people we meet are fascinating and the stories they tell are so interesting. Our kids see the world as a smaller, become motivated, gain the courage and are inspired to follow their dreams too. We've been hosting for about 10 years now, no end in sight and may have a bike tour in our future too!

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Michiel March 31, 2017, 3:17 AM

Hi Richard,

Oh yes, meeting WS touring cyclists from all over the world is fascinating! Thanks for sharing your experiences - a very enjoyable read. It will probably help to get rid of my bad cold soon. Cannot welcome a couple from Poland tomorrow; don't want them to become ill. Looking forward to riding myself again, from my home on Costa Vicentina, Southwest Portugal.

Greetings to you in the deep south of Texas.

Michiel van Dam

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